BUCKET LIST: Kayak the Ord River, Kununurra, Western Australia

This was a real adventure, one our kids talk about again and again. And what a way to explore this section of The Kimberley!

We booked a two-day, self guided kayaking tour. We packed our food and drink, ice, clothes, camera and sundries – they provided the kayaks, life jackets, tents, waterproof barrels for your gear and eskies. You carry everything you need in your canoes – so pack lightly!

Day 1

It was a 6.15am start and an hour’s drive. After a stop at the Lake Argyle lookout, you are given tips, and dropped near the dam wall in our 2 person Canadian canoes – off you go!

The Ord River feeds the largest reservoir in Western Australia, Lake Argyle – the second largest in Australia after Lake Gordon in Tasmania. We had a good look at Lake Argyle on a plane trip to the Bungle Bungles and out at Lake Argyle Caravan and Camping Park.

I’ll admit it was a bit daunting at first. Some sections were fast running, and there was a knack to get through them. It doesn’t involve using branches to stay afloat – which is probably why our boys capsized it early on in the trip! Heatley pulled a superman effort to beach in thigh-high mud on the scrubby bank – plunging our youngest (with a fear of spiders) right into a web! No wonder we laugh when we remember the trip.

They were righted easily, and we were on our way again. Luckily – because it is a 24 km paddle on the first day. It helps that the water is flowing steadily – but our 8, 10, 13 and 15 year olds had a work out. Me, too! I have never tried to paddle this far before.

Canoeing beside the gorge was so peaceful when a baby freshwater crocodile bumped our kayak – I thought it was hopping in! My daughter and I shrieked, then laughed. What a wildlife encounter. I think we scared it, more than he scared us! we spotted lots of birds – and a goanna.

We found a sandy beach for lunch and a swim.

As for scenery – just magnificent, hey? – it included the Carr-Boyd Ranges.

It was so good to arrive at our rustic private Cooliman Camp. A big job unloading for the six of us, but everything was provided, including platforms for tents and a camp kitchen.

We found out our waterproof barrel may not have been sealed exactly tight enough. You can see our gear drying out! 

There was still energy for Heatley to take our daughter fishing – and they both caught a catfish each at the same time! 

Hugh stopped fishing to watch the turtles. After discovering the toilet was ‘eco’ indeed – drop down, Kate said, “I was just about to jump into the shower but realised this was going to be COLD, not warm… it wasn’t too bad at all!”

There was a real fire BBQ – we were all ravenous – sausages never tasted as good. Bonus – chatting with other travellers.

Kayak the Ord River Kununurra Western Australia

The moon was so bright shining on our tent, we popped the towels over it! It was lovely to wake up to the trees above us.

Day 2

After more turtle watching…

and a bacon and egg breakfast, our new friends gave Hugh a redclaw and we all had a try. 

Off again – we were all a little sore today – but the views made it all worthwhile. We found the Triple J picnic ground for a snack and more beautiful rocks! 

Next was Jumping Rock – Hugh said it was 15m high and really scary (frightening for mums of mountain goats children, too!)

We stopped at Stonewall Camp (9km from the Cooliman Camp, and 23 km from here to town). Hugh and I paddled to Sandy Island – just gorgeous!

Whilst the others travelled on. “We were so far ahead before the boat picked us up,” wrote Kate.

The sunset boat ride on ‘Crocodilly’ was also a treat. 

Our driver showed us Elephant Rock and the racecourse, which the kids thought were pretty cool – so were the drinks!

It is 55km from the dam wall back to Kununurra. I was very proud of all of us. Pancakes for tea – the next day was a day off for the kids, whilst Heatley and I caught up with work. Hugh’s diary: “Today we watched 3 movies. We are all really sore.”

To sum up – our 2 day paddle tour was at times crazy scary, very rustic, and extremely tiring. Would I recommend it? Definitely!

Now, there are lots of options – 1, 2 and 3 day tours – plus you can stay and explore extra days. We actually saw paddlers come right back to Kununurra from our caravan park site – here is our view from Kimberleyland below and you can read more

Where to stay: Kununurra has lots of caravan parks, many lakeside – and a showground. Find them in the CAMPS AUSTRALIA WIDE App and guides.

Find out more about the tours:


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